Special thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me to be on the blog tour and for providing the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads: Crushing Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers Release Date: 11 January 2022 Genre: Graphic Novel, Romance
She’s lonely and searching for a connection. He’s lonely and afraid to reach out. Life in the big city means being surrounded by connections—making them, missing them, and longing for them. But is finding someone else really the answer to their problems?
Crushing, the stunning debut graphic novel from Sophie Burrows, is a story told in silence; a story without words but bursting with meaning; a story about loneliness and love.
Achingly beautiful, quietly defiant, and full of subtle wit and wisdom, Crushing is a unique meditation on the human condition in the twenty-first century, and a timely examination of young adult life in an age of isolation.
Sophie Burrows is an award winning British writer, illustrator and comics creator. Inspired by the everyday, she loves to tell stories which explore themes of human behaviour, mental health and relationships. In 2019 she graduated from the MA in Children’s Book Illustration course at Cambridge School of Art, and subsequently won Student Illustrator of the Year 2019 at the V&A Illustration Awards.
Her first picture book as writer/illustrator, Ig Pig and Og Frog! was released in 2020, and her debut graphic novel, Crushing , publishes in 2021. Alongside her illustration, Sophie is also an associate lecturer and teaches on the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art.
Sophie lives and works in London with her partner Daniel. Besides drawing, she also loves to cook, and enjoys being creative in the kitchen. She is an avid music lover, and often spends her spare time watching live music and going to festivals.
TL;DR: Crushingis a graphic novel that I think will resonate with many of us because we’ve all felt loneliness and do feel lonely, especially since the pandemic. The artwork was simple, beautiful and vibrant with pops of red amidst the black and white, and the style complemented the quietness of the story very well. There was no plot but we follow the lives of our two protagonists as they navigate their everyday situations, searching for opportunities and connections, and it was simply so relatable. There may not be a happy ever after just yet but it’s certainly a hopeful new beginning! 🥰
Special thanks to Amazon Original Stories for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!
Goodreads: The Wedding Setup Publisher: Amazon Original Stories Published: 11 January 2022 Genre: Contemporary Romance
Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.
Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.
Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?
TL;DR:I’m honestly a little disappointed (in myself) that I haven’t picked up anything by Sonali Dev until this short story because I loved everything about this second-chance romance with hilarious and well-intentioned meddling BFFs, mothers, and aunties. Dev’s writing is humorous, heartfelt, and packed with emotion, and her characters were realistic and relatable. If this short story is a good indication of what her full-length romances are like then I’ve definitely been missing out and I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Dev’s books asap!
I’m not much of a seasonal reader but the holiday romances have really worked for me this particular holiday season! Having spent the majority of my life living in the tropics, with a few years here and there in countries with four seasons, I actually do miss the cold weather and these reads have allowed me to immerse myself in both holiday cheer and snowy settings.
Dipped in Holly by Dana Isaly
Goodreads: Dipped in Holly Publication Date: 17 December 2021 Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotica
Holly was just dumped. Less than a week before Christmas. In public. Dressed as a slutty Mrs. Claus. All she wants is to hide in the bathroom and have a breakdown in peace. But the Silver Fox who owns the bar has other plans.
The moment Nick takes in Holly’s grey eyes and sassy attitude, he’s hooked. There’s no denying the attraction that has sparked between them. And when that tension finally snaps, he finds himself taking Holly to bed. A kinky one night stand later, and they’re left questioning if it was enough.
Clark Griswold was onto something, at least with his annual holiday meltdown. And since the last three weeks of my life have been riddled with humbug—another breakup, a broken toe, an office promotion I deserved and didn’t get—I’m not at all in the mood to celebrate nor have the happ, happ, happiest Christmas EVER.
When Mom insisted that we all gather at my Grandparent’s ancient cabin for an old school family Christmas, I fully intended to get into the holiday spirit with the help of the three wise men, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, and Jim Beam. But those boys did absolutely nothing to offset the shock or temper the sting of seeing my EX on our doorstep the first day of our holiday soiree.
Apparently, Santa missed the memo, and this elf is pissed. Stuck for a week with the man who obliterated my heart nearly two decades ago, I did the only thing I could do and put on my game face, thankful for the home advantage.
I knew better than to drink that last cup of eggnog. I knew better than to get tongue tangled beneath the mistletoe with the only man to ever break my heart. I knew better than to sleep with Satan’s wingman on the eve of the Lord’s birthday.
I could blame the nog. I could blame the deceitful light blue eyes, thick, angelic hair, and panty evaporating smirk…but mostly, I blame Eli because he always knew exactly which of my buttons to push.
I foolishly thought a family Christmas filled with nostalgia was going to turn my inner Scrooge around, but this year’s festivities went up in flames. Leave it to the ghost of my Christmas past to be the one to light the match.
Fa la la la la, la FML.
TL;DR: It admittedly took me a little while to get into the story but I ended up really enjoying the Christmas vibes, the Collins family, the sibling relationships, and following along with Eli and Whitney’s second-chance romance after a gut-wrenching heartbreak and 17 years apart. This ended up being a bit more serious than I expected (CW/TW below) but the story was well-balanced with light-hearted moments of cheeky banter, swoony romance and steamy moments.
CW/TW: recounting of terminal illness (cancer), parental death, anxiety
Rex “TW” McMurtry’s perpetual single-hood wouldn’t bother him so much if all his ex-girlfriends didn’t keep marrying the very next person they dated, especially when so many of those grooms are his closest friends. He may be a pro-football defensive end for the Chicago Squalls, but the press only wants to talk about how he’s always a groomsman and never a groom. Rex is sick of being the guy before the husband, and he’s most definitely sick of being the best man at all their weddings.
Bartender Abigail McNerny is the gal-pal, the wing-woman, the she-BFF. She’s dated. Once. And once was more than enough. Privy to all the sad stories of her customers, ‘contentment over commitment’ is her motto, and Abby is convinced no one on earth could ever entice her into a romantic relationship . . . except that one guy she’s loved since preschool.
The guy who just walked into her bar. The guy who doesn’t recognize her. The guy who is drunk and needs a ride home. The guy who has a proposition she should definitely refuse.
TL;DR: This was a delightfully binge-able fake-dating/marriage romance that I had a really hard time putting down. Abby and Rex stole my heart and their romance made me swoon and sigh with happiness! I’m eagerly anticipating the next two books in the series, which I’m assuming will be about Cyrus and Alaric(?) and I absolutely cannot wait 😍
Interior Design School? Check. Cute house to fix up? Check. Sexy, grumpy neighbor who is going to get in the way of your plans? Check. Unfortunately.
Grace Travis has it all figured out. In between finishing school and working a million odd jobs, she’ll get her degree and her dream job. Most importantly, she’ll have a place to belong, something her harsh mother could never make. When an opportunity to fix up—and live in—a little house on the beach comes along, Grace is all in. Until her biggest roadblock moves in next door.
Noah Jansen knows how to make a deal. As a real estate developer, he knows when he’s found something special. Something he could even call home. Provided he can expand by taking over the house next door–the house with the combative and beautiful woman living in it.
With the rules for being neighborly going out the window, Grace and Noah are in an all-out feud. But sometimes, your nemesis can show you that home is always where the heart is.
TL;DR:How to Love Your Neighbor started out strong for me—I was immediately pulled in by the beginning and I enjoyed the slightly antagonistic banter between Grace and Noah. Sadly, as the story progressed I started to get restless with the book as my interest waned. It’s not badly written and it did have enjoyable elements to it but something felt lacking. I wanted more chemistry, more friendship, more romance, just more!
I’m not much of a seasonal reader but apparently, this is the year when holiday romances are my jam and I’m having a blast with them! I binged the Holiday Brothers series by Willa Nash in two days and they were delightfully festive holiday novellas that I have no doubt will put many in a merry mood!
One week with one little girl—an angel, according to my staffing agency. Acting as the short-term nanny for a single dad should have been an easy way to make some extra cash. Until I show up for my first day and face off with a demon disguised as a seven-year-old girl wearing a red tutu and matching glitter slippers.
Oh, and her father? My temporary boss? Maddox Holiday. The same Maddox Holiday I crushed on in high school. The same Maddox Holiday who didn’t even know I existed. And the same Maddox Holiday who hasn’t set foot in Montana for years because he’s been too busy running his billionaire empire.
Enduring seven days is going to feel like scaling the Himalayas in six-inch heels. Toss in the Holiday family’s annual soiree, and Christmas Eve nightmares really do come true. But I can do anything for a week, especially for this paycheck, even if it means wrangling the naughty, impressing the nice, and playing the nanny.
This little novella was a fun and quirky holiday romance with characters that had great chemistry and a story with a good dose of touching family moments. While ultimately the romance ended up being very insta-love, it didn’t feel like it initially as Natalie and Maddox built up a good foundation of trust and respect through their bond with Violet. This was a novella, so of course, I kind of expected the insta aspect of the romance, but I also thought it was handled well enough that it didn’t bother me overly much.
I really liked Natalie—she has such a good heart and I loved how she understood and came through for Violet when her mother was inattentive and constantly let her down. Nat was so bubbly and passionate about the children she took care of and it shone through. I also really enjoyed her more comedic monologue as she reflected on how high-school Nat would feel about working closely with Maddox and having flirty interactions with him—she was a really fun heroine and so easy to root for! Maddox was your slightly typical hot billionaire single-dad who doted on his little girl. I really liked how much he adored Violet and wanted to change his lifestyle to be better for her. He was a sweet guy and I’m glad that this was told in alternating POVs so we get a good insight into both their mindsets. The chemistry and pull between Mad and Nat was undeniable and was built up really well! It’s mildly steamy but the main sex scenes are fade-to-black, so if on-page sex isn’t your jam in romances, you’ll be okay with this one!
I pride myself in being grounded. Sure, I’ve had my share of childhood fantasies. Winning an Oscar. Winning the lottery. Winning an Olympic medal for an athletic talent I have yet to discover. But the only fantasy I ever thought might actually happen was winning my brother’s best friend.
Heath Holiday. My crush on him has ebbed and flowed over the years, but the day I started working for his construction company was the day I smothered it for good. Sort of. Mostly. It was on my to-do list. Making it a priority would have been easier had he not arrived at his family’s annual Christmas party looking ridiculously handsome in a suit.
Then he kissed me. We stepped into an alternate universe and he kissed me. I assumed the next day I’d just be Guy’s little sister again. The office newbie. Our kiss forgotten. Except he keeps showing up at my house. With gifts.
A gold bracelet carrying three jingling bells. Two dainty jeweled earrings, each shaped as a bow. And finally, he brought himself. One brother’s best friend, asking if I can keep a secret
If you read the first book in the Holiday Brothers series then you’ll probably remember the first cheeky glimpse we get into the blossoming romance between Stella and Heath, and if you were like me, you probably also couldn’t wait to find out how they got to that point! I ended up really enjoying the romance between these two and so far, this is my favourite book in this series. There were definitely some not-so-great moments that had me cringing and also shaking my fist in rage (on Stella’s behalf) but ultimately, these two had a wonderful connection that gave me the warm fuzzies and I was here for their happiness!
Again, because this is a novella, things move pretty quickly on the romantic front; however, I thought their connection as a result of their lifelong friendship and the mutual attraction they felt (and that they kept secret from each other) was established well enough that the fast pace didn’t feel unnatural. I’m not one for pining and angst but this had some great mutual pining that had me giggling because I just wanted them to get together already! I thought they suited each other really well and I loved how both of them were all-in from the beginning; despite the pretty uncool and bumbling secret-keeping fiascos instigated by Heath once they got together! I really liked them individually as well. Stella was a bit of a typical quirky heroine but I can’t lie, I loved the way she twisted aphorisms (and ngl, most of her twists make so much more sense)! 😂 I also loved the way she became an adorably *awkward* mess whenever she’d meet Heath—it’s just so relatable! Despite a few fumbles himself with the secret-keeping, Heath was a pretty good guy. He was a player in his younger days but I never got those vibes from him, even when we met him in book one, and his steady and hard-working presence was only proven in this story. I wished we got a little bit more character depth from both of them but I thought they were decently developed for a novella-length romance!
There are a lot of places I’d rather spend Christmas Eve morning than on a cold, snowy sidewalk outside someone else’s home. I’d kill to be sitting beside a fireplace, drinking cocoa, wearing flannel pajamas and reading a book.
Instead, I’m here, standing in front of my one-night stand’s house, working up the courage to ring the doorbell and tell him I’m pregnant.
I hate that term—one-night stand. It sounds so cheap and sleezy. Tobias Holiday is neither of those things. He’s handsome and caring. Witty and charismatic. And once, a long time ago, he was mine.
Our one-night reunion was only supposed to be a hookup. A fling with an old lover. A parting farewell before I moved to London and put my feelings for him an ocean away. How exactly am I supposed to explain that to Tobias that I’m having a baby? His baby? Maybe I could sing it. He always loved the silly songs I made up in the shower.
Three French hens, two turtle doves.
And a partridge and a pregnancy.
In the previous two books, we briefly learn about Tobias and the surprise pregnancy with his ex, Eva, but of the three brothers, he’s the one who has been around the least. It was great to finally meet him and get his story, but out of the three Holiday Brothers books, this one was probably my least favourite! I’d seen some mixed reviews and wasn’t even sure that I wanted to read it anymore cos I thought I’d end up annoyed but I’m glad I did and finished the series. It wasn’t that the story or writing was bad, I just didn’t connect with the characters.
From the reviews I’d seen, I had expected to find myself hating the heroine, but I felt more indifferent than anything. I mean, I didn’t particularly like or understand her, but I also empathised with her situation. With a job that has her frequently relocating on little notice, she lives a pretty lonely life and with her next big move already in the works, and now a surprise baby on the way, I think her being thrown for a loop was realistic. I would also probably be freaking out in this situation! But I did think she was a little selfish and I never really understood her desire to not stay when it was clear as day that Montana was home to her—what point was she trying to prove and to whom? (view spoiler)
That said, they also never properly discussed the situation because she either ran away as she doesn’t like confronting problems, or Tobias would get frustrated and say hurtful things, or both of them would get overwhelmed by the sexual tension and instead of talking, they’d have sex (which happened a few times). Tobias definitely could’ve been more communicative too and said what was on his mind—well, actually, they both definitely should’ve used their words and been y’know, adults about the situation (lol), but after being unceremoniously rejected by Eva at the end of their college years, I get why he felt that way and why he believed she didn’t want to stay.
Overall though, while they did have the chemistry of old lovers and their steamy moments were hot, I just never really felt invested in their story because it was just overly dramatic and I didn’t feel like it was for any good reason (or at least not a reason that I understood or that I felt was clearly explained). Obviously, their HEA was nice and I’m glad that they both found their happy place together, I just think their journey would’ve been better had they actually talked.
Have you read the Holiday Brothers series or is it on your TBR?
FRIENDS! I’m so excited to share the cover reveal for Blind Pass, book two in Teagan Hunter’s sports (hockey) romance Carolina Comets series. The book is coming to #KindleUnlimited on January 27th, 2022.
I would know. I’m coming home with a brand-new ring on my finger.
My wife? Ryan Bell. We’re polar opposites. She’s sunshine and happiness. I’m grumpy and scarred—literally.
We could get it annulled and no one would be the wiser. Only problem? We posted about it online, and it’s already making headlines.
I can’t afford to get that kind of attention and tank my career, and Ryan needs my help too. We make a plan: stay married for one year, play our roles, and divorce amicably at the end. No harm, no foul. Besides, there’s no way the beauty is going to fall for the beast…
Goodreads: Window Shopping Published: 19 October 2021 Genre: Contemporary Romance
A sizzling, standalone, feel-good holiday romance from Tessa Bailey, New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Summer. Two weeks before Christmas and all through Manhattan, shop windows are decorated in red and green satin. I’m standing alone in front of the famous Vivant department store, when a charming man named Aiden asks my opinion of the décor.
It’s a tragedy in tinsel, I say, unable to lie. He asks for a better idea with a twinkle in his eye. Did I know he owned the place? No. He put me on the spot. Now I’m working for that man, trying to ignore that he’s hot. But as a down on her luck girl with a difficult past, I know an opportunity when I see one—and I have to make it last.
I’ll put my heart and soul into dressing his holiday windows. I’ll work without stopping. And when we lose the battle with temptation, I’ll try and remember I’m just window shopping.
TL;DR: This reverse grumpy-sunshine romance was incredibly adorable, delightful, and so full of positive and festive holiday vibes! I think this is also the first romance/book I’ve read that directly references the pandemic, and while it was admittedly a little jarring to see things being so ‘normal’ when it’s still so not normal (and the pandemic so far from over) IRL, it was also nice and hopeful! I loved Stella and Aiden and despite the insta-love moments of their romance, I was sold on their connection and sizzling chemistry and they more than deserved their HEA!
Goodreads: In a Holidaze Publisher: Gallery Books Published: 06 October 2020 Genre: Contemporary Romance
One Christmas wish, two brothers, and a lifetime of hope are on the line for hapless Maelyn Jones in In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by Christina Lauren, the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.
But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.
The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.
TL;DR: It has been a long time since I’ve read a CLo book and now I’m wondering why! This book was such a fun and wonderfully festive holiday romance and it served a good dose of feel-good family vibes, a swoony albeit slightly cheesy romance, and likeable characters that you can’t help but root for and wish you were friends with, too! If you’re looking for a holiday read to lose yourself in for a little while, I would definitely recommend this one.